The Bible
  OT Overview
  NT Overview
  OT Books
  NT Books
  OT History
  NT History
  OT Studies
  Pentateuch Studies
  History Books Studies
  Studies in the Prophets
  NT Studies
  Studies in the Gospels
  Acts and Letters Studies
  Revelation Studies
  Inductive Study
  Types of Literature
  Early Church
  British Museum
  Historical Docs
  Life Questions
  How to Preach
  SBS Staff
Search for page by title (auto-completes)
Advanced search
Translate into
Advanced Search
Search for word or phrase within each page
Search by OT book and chapter
Search by NT book and chapter

Introduction to the Book of Haggai

Julian Spriggs M.A.

Related articles

Interpreting OT Prophets Introduction to Zechariah
Introduction to Ezra and Nehemiah The Persian Empire
Post-exilic chronology

Haggai the prophet

The name 'Haggai' means 'festal'. It has been suggested that he may have been born on some outstanding feast day. He was probably born during the captivity in Babylon and returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel after 539 BC. Otherwise, nothing is known about him. He possibly remembered Solomon's temple (2:3), if so, he would a very old man when he prophesied.

Haggai is the first of the post-exilic prophets, who spoke God's message to the returned exiles in Judah and Jerusalem after the restoration. His contemporary was Zechariah, whose prophetic word was complementary to Haggai.

Dates of his messages

Haggai has carefully dated his work. His four messages were all given in 520 BC, the second year of Darius. Each of the messages came at a significant time in the Jewish calendar, and the message would fit the day.

First message 1:2-11 1st Elul
Feast of New Moon
Second message 2:1-9 21st Tishri
Last day of Feast of Tabernacles
Third and fourth message 2:10-19, 20-23 24th Chislev
Rains could be expected to water the new crops
they would have just planted

Historical background to Haggai and Zechariah

We can divide the history of God's people in relation to the captivity into three periods, determined by the world power at the time:
1) Assyrian period - brought about the fall of Samaria
2) Babylonian period - brought about the fall of Jerusalem
3) Medo-Persian period - saw the return of the exiles to Judah, the time of Haggai and Zechariah.


586 The fall and destruction of Jerusalem, seen as the death of the nation and a foreshadow of the final judgement.
Things could never be the same again. The nation was truly dead (Ezek 37:11).
But God had promised restoration (Ezek 37:12ff).
562 Death of Nebuchadnezzar, decline of Babylon, no stable government
556 Nabonidus seized throne in Babylon
552 Nabonidus withdrew into Arabia, leaving Belshazzar his son to rule.
Cyrus, prince of Anshan, became ruler of Persia, Media, Asia Minor, Parthia and Afghanistan.
550 Cyrus conquered Media, Armenia and Cappadocia
547 Cyrus moved west, conquering Asia Minor and came up against Greece, so moved east, conquering Parthia and Afghanistan, creating the largest ever world empire, only Babylon remained.
539 Jewish history started a new chapter when Cyrus captured Babylon. The last bastion of the Babylonian Empire had fallen and Cyrus' empire was complete. He saw the decline and defeat of Babylon as a judgement against Nabonidus for forsaking the Babylonian god Marduk

Ezra 1:1-4:5 describes this period from the Jewish point of view:
Cyrus decreed that the Jews could return to Judah if they wished. However many chose to remain in Persia. They received royal authorization to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:2). According to Ezra, Cyrus claimed that the Lord, the God of heaven has given him all the kingdoms of the earth and he has charged him to build him a house in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:2). The Cyrus Cylinder, in the British Museum, records that Cyrus rebuilt temples in Babylon and restored gods to their places. His prayer, "May all the gods who I have placed in their sanctuaries address a daily prayer in my favour" - shows his syncretistic outlook. He was counting on the help of all gods, including Yahweh.

Cyrus had returned all the images collected by Nabonidus and Nebuchadnezzar to their own shrines. As there was no image of Yahweh, the vessels taken by Nebuchadnezzar were returned to Jerusalem. 50,000 returned with the vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had taken in 536 BC. Ezra gives a long list of returning exiles (Ezra 2).

The altar was set up within the ruins of the temple and the sacrifices started (Ezra 3:1-6). There was an official grant of timber from Cyrus to start the project (Ezra 3:7). A celebration and thanksgiving was held to mark the start of the rebuilding programme (Ezra 3:8-13).

However progress was short lived. The local people tried to join in, wanting to help in the restoration work, probably to control local political issues and for power grabbing reasons. These were people who had settled in the land during the exile, a mixed race population moved in from other nations, who had intermarried with the remnant left in Judah. Zerubbabel and Joshua refused to work with them - danger of compromise. This became the bed of hostility lasting for centuries between the Jews and the Samaritans. This caused the work to grind to a halt (Ezra 4:1-5, 24). Work on the temple stopped until 520 BC.

There would have been high hopes at the prospect of return and restoration of the community in Jerusalem and restoration of the covenant relationship with God - partly due to the inspiration of the prophets such as Ezekiel. Despair and disillusionment struck the returning Jews when the ruins of Jerusalem were first seen. We need to remember that most of the exiles were taken in 597 BC, ten years before the destruction. Very little of the city was left intact. It was just a pile of rubble, with enemies wandering in and out of the city through the ruins of the walls.

Returning exiles were certainly not wealthy, as the affluent people stayed in Babylon. secure, content and settled. Very little money was available to rebuild the city. The returning exiles had a difficult existence in a ruined city open to enemy attack and raids. The first concern would be new houses for shelter for families, less time and effort available for work on temple and walls.

There was therefore a great need for inspired leadership to lead the spiritual renewal. Haggai and Zechariah were called to this difficult task in 520 BC. Haggai brought encouragement to build new temple - the physical reconstruction. Zechariah brought a greater spiritual dimension of rebuilding the hopes of the nation and stimulating Messianic hope.

In 530 BC, Cyrus was killed in battle against tribes North East of Persia. He had established an efficient communication structure and effective control through his officials (satraps). He was known for his unusual liberality as a ruler. Herodotus wrote this:
"The Persians considered Cyrus to be a father to his people because in the kindness of his heart he was always occupied with plans for their well-being".

In 529 BC, his son, Cambyses took the throne. He was a tyrant, fearful of any threat to the throne. He assassinated his popular brother. He conquered Egypt, adding it to the Persian empire. His armies passing through Israel would have caused much poverty by their looting and damage. Perhaps the poverty described by Haggai was caused by the armies of Cambyses (Hag 1:6,9, 2:16).

In 522 BC, when Cambyses heard that an usurper (Smerdis) pretending to be his brother had seized the throne, he committed suicide. This caused rebellions throughout the empire.

Later in 522 BC, Darius, son of the governor of Susa, claimed the throne, killing the usurper, and defeating the rebel factions. This was a time of weakness and instability in Persia, which would have sparked off Messianic hopes and hopes of judgements on the nations. If the Messiah was about to appear, the temple must be ready for him. Therefore, urgency for prophetic message to get temple built.

In 520 BC, rebuilding of the temple commenced. This was challenged by the Persian governors, who wrote to Darius, who found Cyrus' approval of the project in the court records (Ezra 5:6-6:12). Darius stopped interference and ordered that material help must be given to the Jews. This suggests that Darius had no suspicion of any potential Jewish rebellion.

In 516 BC, temple reconstruction was completed without further interference.

In later years there was a clash with Greece and oppression of Jews by Persian governors based in Samaria through high taxes. The Jews felt helpless, so hope for future faded, and the low morale led to moral and religious apathy, which was the situation addressed by the prophet Malachi.

The foundation of the temple had been laid by the returning exiles, but because of opposition during the reign of Cyrus, the work had stopped. Sixteen years later, during the reign of Darius I (522 - 486 BC), the work had still not progressed beyond the foundations. The influential members of the community were content to leave it incomplete while they concentrated on building their own fine houses.

Repeated crop failure had come as a warning that their complacency and tendency to blame past opposition for their lack of work on the temple was not acceptable to God. God sent Haggai and Zechariah to set them into action. "Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them". (Ezra 5:1-2)

Through Haggai's prophecy, God called rulers and people to recommence their unfinished task.
"And the elders of the Jews built and prospered, through the prophesying of Haggai, the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. ... and this house was finished on the third day of the month of Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king." (Ezra 6:14-15)

Haggai was one of the most successful of God's prophets, having the pleasure of seeing the fruits of his message before his eyes. His main message is about having the right priorities in life, that God must come first. Howver, Haggai was not concerned only about bricks and mortar, but also saw that the reconstruction of the temple was a link in God's chain of events, and that Zerubbabel, his prince, who was of the house of David, was a link in the Messianic line (Mt 1:12). Into the same temple, after it was remodelled by Herod the Great, the Lord Jesus walked, fulfilling Haggai’s prediction: "The latter splendour of this house shall be greater than the former" (Hag 2:9).

Related articles

Interpreting OT Prophets Introduction to Zechariah
Introduction to Ezra and Nehemiah The Persian Empire
Post-exilic chronology

The Bible

Pages which look at issues relevant to the whole Bible, such as the Canon of Scripture, as well as doctrinal and theological issues. There are also pages about the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and 'lost books' of the Old Testament.

Also included are lists of the quotations of the OT in the NT, and passages of the OT quoted in the NT.

Old Testament Overview

This is a series of six pages which give a historical overview through the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period, showing where each OT book fits into the history of Israel.

New Testament Overview

This is a series of five pages which give a historical overview through the New Testament, focusing on the Ministry of Jesus, Paul's missionary journeys, and the later first century. Again, it shows where each book of the NT fits into the history of the first century.

Introductions to Old Testament Books

This is an almost complete collection of introductions to each of the books in the Old Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Introductions to New Testament Books

This is a collection of introductions to each of the 27 books in the New Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Old Testament History

Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

New Testament History

Articles which give additional information about the history and culture of the first century, giving helpful background knowledge for the Gospels and Paul's travels.

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

Studies in the Pentateuch (Gen - Deut)

A series of articles covering studies in the five books of Moses. Studies in the Book of Genesis look at the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the Tower of Babel and the Table of the Nations.

There are also pages about covenants, the sacrifices and offerings, the Jewish festivals and the tabernacle, as well as the issue of tithing.

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

There are also pages describing some of the historical events of the period, including the Syro-Ephraimite War, and the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC.

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey.

More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Early Church Fathers

These are a series of pages giving biographical information about some of the more significant early church fathers, such as Irenaeus, Origen and Tertullian, as well as some important groups and events in the first centuries of the church.

Artifacts in the British Museum relevant to Biblical studies

These are a series of pages describing artifacts in each gallery of the British Museum, which have a connection with the Bible.

Biblical Archaeology in Museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also page of photographs from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem of important artifacts.

Historical documents

These are a series of pages containing historical documents which give helpful information for Biblical studies. These include Hittite suzerainty treaties with a similar structure to the Book of Deuteronomy, different lists of the New Testament books and quotations from Josephus and other ancient writers.

Life Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.